The US is not the only country that has disputes over religious symbols in courtrooms. Howard Friedman writes on his excellent Religion Clause blog:
NSA reported yesterday that Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation has reversed the conviction of Judge Luigi Tosti who had been sentenced by a lower court to seven months in jail for refusing to carry out his official duties. The sentence came after the Supreme Council of Magistrates removed Tosti from his position and cut off his pay for unjustifiable behavior. Tosti, who is Jewish, had refused to sit in his Camerino courtroom where– as is customary in Italy– a cross is displayed. Tosti argued that defendants have a right to be tried in a secular courtroom, and that lawyers and judges can refuse to serve in courtrooms that would deny defendants a fair trial. The high court– after conducting Tosti’s hearing without a cross in the courtroom– apparently agreed with Tosti’s church-state argument. It acquitted him, holding that he had not committed a crime. This however does not mean that crosses will be removed from Italian courts. In late 2004, the Constitutional Court held that crosses could remain in classrooms and courts.
For crying out loud, they actually sentenced this guy to jail for that. Unreal. Glad the higher court reversed the conviction, but the whole situation is absurd. This is the obvious problem with allowing religious symbolism in a courtroom, where people of all religions or no religion should be treated alike.